Monday, July 16, 2018

Summer...


Summer has matured into cicada song.

Yesterday evening I sat on the porch drinking in the magnificent colors of the waning day.

Pink-gray clouds floated against a nearly turquoise sky. The whole world was bathed in a golden light. All the other colors of the world shone with more intensity -- the straw that lines the side of the foremost raised bed became the color of true gold. The red blossoms of the royal catchfly almost hurt my eyes in their intensity.

And, of course, green glowed with brilliance in the golden light.

This was not the soft golden light that envelops the world at sunset in late fall and winter -- the light created by long, slanting rays of sunlight.

No, this light was created by atmospheric conditions hinting at a summer rain and storm -- at least the potential. This light had an energy that said "wake up."

I sipped my tea and watched the colors change.

Then I noticed the cicada song, not the constant drone of the full cicada season, but one buzz here, one over there... In the space between cicada calls I heard a distant bird song, then a frog croak.

A few nights earlier the air was full of frog song.

Now the cicadas, after a year underground, are emerging to live their last few weeks flying, singing, and mating. The cicada song pulled my attention so completely into the moment that I almost felt I'd stepped into a dream.

The golden light dimmed...
And the fireflies began dancing.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Triage


June blooms with typical profusion... sort of. The poppies are rather scarce this year. Previous years' photos show the "flower" beds along the house rife with poppies. I scattered plenty of seed in late winter. But it was dry. And kept on being dry. Still is dry. And no portent for it being wet anytime soon.

Tomorrow night's forecast holds a 50 percent hope for thunderstorms and rain. It could happen. But it's going to take more than one storm to break the drought.

So I'm pulling the plug on the broccoli. More accurately, I'm pulling the hose. The soaker hose I've been using to keep the broccoli hydrated will get pulled tomorrow and placed somewhere else. At some point you've got to ask yourself -- Is it worth the effort to keep the broccoli (or whatever) going?

At this point I've got to say that the broccoli isn't earning its keep. While I'm thrilled with each head of flower buds I take off the broccoli plants, it's not enough to be worth the water to keep it going. So the broccoli will be the first casualty of the drought... anyway, the first intentional casualty.

I made the mistake of putting the eggplants in the garden right before going away for a long weekend. They would survive better in the ground than in the tiny starter pots they were in -- and my husband would have one less thing to water while I was gone. We even got a little rain the first night I was gone, but the heat that followed burned the little plants. I've tried saving them with water and kelp solution. But I think it's time to give up on them... most of them, anyway.

I had planned to transplant a number of things this summer, but that's going to have to wait. Everything I've transplanted so far has been fried by the heat. Maybe it's alive, but I doubt it will be for long. I might go ahead and dig up the thornless blackberries, but I will hold them in pots in a shady spot where I can keep them well watered until fall. I ordered a bareroot Montmorency cherry tree (I couldn't pass up the deal -- $9.99 for the tree and just eight bucks shipping. You can't get a tree for $18 any other time). It's in a large pot of soil waiting for fall. I hope we're seeing wetter weather by then.

Speaking of fall, I'm now wondering just how much of a fall garden to put in. Should I reduce the size because of the lack of rain? Or will it start raining by then? It will soon be time to start the cabbages. I need to decide.

And I'm still waiting for my sweet potato slips to arrive. I'm almost afraid to plant them. Won't they just burn up in the heat? I'll try wetting the planting sites good before sticking them in the ground, cross my fingers and pray for rain. That's all I can do except keep the garden hose going.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

All Aflutter

These stately common milkweed plants (Asclepius syriaca) have flowered wonderfully this year. If you've never gotten up close and personal with common milkweed in bloom, I recommend that you do so. The pale violet-pink blossoms have an exquisite fragrance.

Fortunately these milkweeds -- as well as another stand of them a few feet away -- are readily accessible for a random inhalation. We also have a great view of them from our screened in porch, where we eat most of our meals during the warm months. So we can be entertained by the flutterings of various butterflies taking sustenance from the blossoms.

Most of the butterflies I've seen at the milkweed blossoms have been these little pale, pale blue ones (below), and the majestic orange and black fritillaries. I'm not absolutely certain which fritillary this beauty is -- Kansas boasts five different fritillary species -- but it might be the Great Spangled Fritillary.

I have seen one Monarch
supping at the flowers. Just one. Even if I hadn't seen the one adult Monarch butterfly I would know that the milkweeds have been visited by at least one Monarch female. Otherwise, how would this little guy (see below) be chewing on the buds? I've also seen a few of these caterpillars crawling along looking for someplace to hang their green and gold chrysalises.

After I explained the Monarch's relationship with the milkweed, he began calling these "sacrificial" plants. Indeed, they are. I plant them for the caterpillars. But I get to enjoy them, as well. So far the caterpillars haven't done much damage to the plants, although a couple of much smaller ones have been defoliated and are just crooked stems.

This is one of the reasons for planting native plants, to feed the native critters, which recognize these plants as food, where they might not find some of the introduced plants palatable. And butterflies tend to lay their eggs on only one type of plant, although the adults can sip nectar from almost any nectar-producing blossom. In this case, Monarch caterpillars only feed on members of the milkweed genus -- although I recently read that they will use another plant in a pinch, but I forget which one.

The population of Monarch butterflies has decreased dramatically in part because we've stomped out milkweed populations. Besides feeding the Monarch babies, these beautiful prairie plants also sustain adults of other native butterflies and bees. Last month a cluster of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) was skeletonized by little spiny caterpillars, which I discovered were the larvae of the small, Silvery Checkerspot butterfly. Go ahead and plant zinnias for the adults to drink from, but plant some nursery plants, too.

The butterflies (and the birds and other critters they feed) will thank you.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Rainbows...

The sound of rain falling soothed me as I lay in the hammock on the porch last night. It brought just one tenth of an inch, but I was glad the storm did not entirely pass us by again.

On Monday evening I headed to Holton (nearly an hour drive) to give a presentation for a garden club, and left early (just as refreshments were served) because of thunderstorm watches and warnings. I drove nearly halfway home in heavy rain, listening to reports of thunderstorm warnings -- complete with threat of hail -- for my area. As I drove I calculated that I would reach the warning area at about the time the warning was supposed to expire. So I was relieved I wouldn't be driving in quarter-size hail.

But alas, I reached the area to discover that no rain had fallen. I arrived home as a sprinkle spotted the sidewalk, and nothing more. I enjoyed the somewhat cooler weather that came with the storm system, but felt frustrated by the continuing lack of moisture. I tried not to let the lack of rain dampen my enthusiasm, but I'm not supposed to have to water regularly in May.

Get used to it, Sister. You're going to have to deal with a lot of "not supposed to" weather situations as the climate continues shifting. But the iris are in bloom, prettily colored and fragrant flowers named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris.

And the rain last night helped to soothe other wounds, where I've been rubbed raw by the idiocy that seems rampant in this world.

Thank goodness for rain and rainbows.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Summer Settles In

Ah, I think it's safe to go gardening.

At least I know what season it is...

Summer. And it doesn't look like that's going to change. Finally, a little stability.

The peas are starting to climb. The Montmorency cherry tree has burst into bloom. It appears to be safe to plant beans, maybe even the tomatoes. And we've had a little rain, with a little more in the forecast. Asparagus is popping up. We've survived third or fourth Winter (I lost track).

And I've finished the final edit on my book, so now I can spend the entire day gardening. Look out Weeds, here I come!

I cut the first rhubarb of the season yesterday. Actually, it was the first rhubarb harvest in years. I'd transplanted it from one place to another, and it just struggled to stay alive for a few years (it was probably the walnut trees that kept it from thriving). Now it's in a more hospitable place and thriving. It now has two tiny little companions from One Heart Farm. When I asked if they had any rhubarb, he said yes, he'd started it from seed just because he wanted rhubarb. He had them in little four-packs, but I really only wanted one, so I picked a four-pack that only had two. He quoted a price of $2, which I thought was extremely reasonable. Then he just gave them to me. I'll go back soon. I know I can find other plants I can't live without.

I don't know what variety the rhubarb is. It's got red stems. cute tiny red stems, and he said it is a European variety, "they're really focusing on pies." So maybe it's a bit less tangy than typical? It will be a few years before I can taste test, though. I'll have to do a bit of research on rhubarb, now.

Anyway... Yay, rhubarb. And yay, One Heart Farm in Lawrence. I'll have to do a blog about them, too, maybe.

Oh, and I missed Naked Gardening Day. That was yesterday, May 5. It would have been a lovely day for naked gardening. Next year.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Blossoming

April 8, 2018.
Yes, it's April; the beginning of the second week in April, in fact.

And it snowed today... again.

And the prairie anemone, also called Pasque flower because it blooms around Easter time, is opening its blossoms. Snow covered blossoms.

In the fields other snow "blossoms" mysteriously appeared. Tiny little spider webs strewn among the tall brown weeds, capturing snowflakes instead of flies. They were everywhere -- among the tall grasses, in the woods. An unexpected blossoming.

Magic is everywhere.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

April Fool

Sweetgrass in the foreground, nettles across the snow covered path. Yes, this is April.
Mother Nature has her own way of playing April Fool pranks.

Thought it was Spring... didn't you?
Guess again! Bwahahaha!

Fifty three baby cabbage plants in the ground (minus one that gotten taken out by a cutworm), plus five bok choy plants. Tiny rutabaga seedlings nestled in the hay. I had planned to get my broccoli plants in the ground before the end of last week. Then I looked at the weather forecast.

Twenty-nine forecast for this morning was no worry. The cabbages have been in the ground long enough that they can handle it.

But tonight's 25 and Tuesday night's 23? That's a bit too low even for the cabbage family, especially if they're newly planted.

Needless to say, the broccoli plants aren't even on the front porch anymore. They're crammed onto the light shelves. The broccoli plants are getting way too big to be in those little pots."

And it's snowing. It was sleeting, rat-a-tat-tatting on the canvas hood of my heavy coat when I went out to put more sheets and blankets on the cabbages. Then it turned to fine snow. But it is beautiful. Early green things show through the fine white stuff. The sweetgrass, nearly a foot tall, glows yellow-green, while behind it the nettle patch hums in deep green. The sleet-snow is so deep that the fuzzy gray-green leaves of the lambs ear barely shines through. Patches of green grass everywhere.

It might feel like winter, but it looks like spring. Green. The snow won't last long. The temperatures will rise this week, but not fast or high enough to suit me. It's April, for crying out loud. I planted peas almost a month ago. Where are they? Too smart to stick their heads up before Winter has its final say.

I watch the snow fall and the temperature stick stubbornly at 27 degrees. I stroke the broccoli plants getting ready to break out of their starter pots. They're safe inside. At least I wasn't that much of an April fool.